If you hike much, and especially if you hike in wilderness away from other people, you need to think about how you will survive a worst case scenario. What happens if you experience a major injury or get lost? What happens if you can’t make it back to your vehicle or other people quickly enough? You need a photographer’s emergency survival kit.
A little forethought can save your life. Over the Thanksgiving holiday I put together a photographer’s emergency survival kit. The goal was a light weight and compact kit that can live in my camera bag. It will be always there. In that kit I included as many multi-use items as I could. Just about every item can solve multiple problem especially when combined in clever ways.
What’s in a Photographer’s Emergency Survival Kit?
Here is what I included in my kit with links for reference. Most of my kit was assembled from items I had in my house so the brands might not match the pictures below. Don’t sweat it. Brand isn’t important for most of this stuff.
- A Leatherman Squirt PS4
- A Mylar Blanket
- Two 2×2 inch gauze
- Small Piece of Moleskin
- A couple of Band-aids
- DIY Fire Starter Cotton Balls Soaked in Petroleum Jelly (i.e. vasoline)
- A 2″ x 4 yard Stretch Gauze
- Six Micropur Water Purification Tablets
- A Micro LED Light
- Six Water Proof Matches + Striker
- A Micro Signaling Mirror
- A Whistle
- Six feet of 1 inch Gaffer’s Tape
- Misc Meds in Sealed Packs: Benadryl, Ibuprofen, etc with Sterilizing Wipes, and Ointment
- 12 Feet of Parachute Cord
I packed all of this into a 4.25″ x 3″ x 2.25″ hard plastic box (military surplus). The kit fits nicely inside a lens slot in my bag or can be stuck in an outside pocket. The box can double as a water vessel if needed. Here is how I got it all in:
Things to Remember
Waterproof matches require their dedicated striker but be sure to store them physically separated. The last thing you want is to ignite the matches in the box by accident. Once they start burning, you can’t really put them out. In my case, I wrapped the matches in tissue paper and cling wrap to keep them small. I slid the striker into the side of the box away from the matches.
If you fly, you will need to check the kit, or pull out the Leatherman.
You can not fly with waterproof matches so they have to be removed and added back in at your destination.
Combining Items in an Emergency
The main use of these items is pretty straight forward. Matches start fires. Mylar blankets provide warmth. In an emergency, channel your inner McGuyver and start combining. The kit includes dedicated signalling devices (mirror and whistle) but a huge waving chrome flag is hard to ignore. Likewise, the Mylar blanket can be shade, or rain shelter or rain catching. There are many other uses too.
Most of the items in this kit have similar multi-use capability.
For more information on how I came up with what to include and how I think it might be used, check out the post on my personal blog post here.
The Finished Kit
There is the finished kit. It is compact and light weight. The goal is to always keep it in my back so when I have an emergency, it is with me.
Andrew is a photography instructor teaching students of all skill levels in Austin, TX through Precision Camera and independently in San Diego, CA. He runs workshops around the United States.
He is a self taught experiential learner who is addicted to the possibilities that new (to him) gear open up. He loves to share the things he has worked out. Andrew started with a passion for landscape and night photography and quickly branched out to work in just about every form of photography. He is an ex-software developer with extensive experience in the IT realm.
Andrew is a full time wedding and commercial photographer in both Austin and San Diego. Andrew is a club founder and multi-time past president of North Austin Pfotographic Society.